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Leigh Curyer (left)
This award, named for a former president of the association, honours an individual or team of explorationists who have accomplished one or both of the following: made a significant mineral discovery; made an important contribution to the prospecting and/or exploration industry.
NexGen Energy – For the discovery of the Arrow uranium deposit in the Athabasca Basin of Saskatchewan, Canada
NexGen Energy discovered the Arrow uranium deposit in 2014, less than a year after listing on the TSX-V. Subsequent drilling established Arrow as the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the Athabasca Basin, and one of the most prolific uranium camps globally. Based on a maiden Preliminary Economic Assessment (PEA) released in 2017, Arrow will conceptually be the world’s largest uranium mine.
Arrow was a blind discovery resulting from innovative, methodical exploration by NexGen Energy on their Rook I property. Utilizing this elite exploration approach, subsequent high-grade uranium discoveries were made on the property from 2015 to 2017, which include Bow, Harpoon, and South Arrow.
The team employed leading-edge geophysical and geochemical surveys and integrated results with reams of historical data to determine drill targets. After the initial discovery, NexGen began aggressively stepping out from known mineralization and hit some of the best intersections in the history of uranium exploration on the basis of core length and grade. With a better handle on the structural controls on mineralization, the team used directional drilling to optimally delineate the near-vertical Arrow deposit, tripling its size potential.
The delineation of the Arrow deposit has been rapid. Rather than rely solely on external consultants, NexGen formed an in-house resource modelling division to build its mineral resource models.
In 2016 the company released its first resource estimate, followed by an update in 2017 that calculated indicated resources of 1.18 million tonnes grading 6.88% U3O8 (or 179.5 million pounds U3O8) and inferred resources of 4.25 million tonnes grading 1.3% U3O8 (or 122.1 million pounds U3O8).
The next milestone was the release of a PEA determining that, after tax, Arrow has a net present value of $3.9 billion and an extraordinary internal rate of return of 56.7% based on a uranium price of US$50 per pound. The average operating cost estimate is relatively low at US$6.70 per pound of U3O8 over the life of the mine and the payback period is 1.1 years. The province of Saskatchewan stands to benefit significantly from the development of Arrow, reaping an estimated $2.98 billion in royalties over the life of the mine.
During 2018 NexGen plans to update the resource model, and release a prefeasibility study through advanced geotechnical, metallurgical, engineering, and environmental baseline studies. Arrow remains open in most directions and at depth, and NexGen is aggressively stepping out with drilling, suggesting this already huge deposit will continue to grow.